edited by Sharon Strzalkowski
The announcement of products and services in this column does not represent an endorsement by the American Council of the Blind, its officers, or staff. Listings are free of charge for the benefit of our readers. “The ACB E-Forum” cannot be held responsible for the reliability of the products and services mentioned. To submit items for this column, send a message to [email protected], or phone the national office at 1-800-424-8666, and leave a message in Sharon Lovering’s mailbox. Information must be received at least two months ahead of publication date.
Candle in the Window Retreat
Candle in the Window will hold its annual retreat Aug. 10-14, 2016 at the Wooded Glen Retreat Center in Henryville, Ind., located minutes away from Louisville, Ky. This year’s theme is “Surviving and thriving as a person who’s blind in our communities.”
Some questions we’ll be asking include:
- What is a community anyway?
- What is the difference between surviving and thriving in a community?
- Which of our communities help us define our sense of self-worth?
- How do we introduce ourselves into a new community?
- What are obstacles that make it feel difficult to join a community, and what can we do to overcome them?
We have group transportation to Wooded Glen; please try to arrive by 1:30 p.m. at the Louisville airport. If you arrive later than that, you may need to arrange your own transportation to Wooded Glen. Try to arrange your departing flights from Louisville for no earlier than noon on Sunday, Aug. 14. If your flight leaves earlier than noon, you may need to arrange your own transportation from Wooded Glen to Louisville.
Attendance is limited to 20 participants, so reserve your spot early by making a $40 deposit (non-refundable). If payment is received before July 8, a $15 discount is offered. Payment through PayPal should be sent to [email protected]. Payment by check may be sent to: Carlos Taylor, 925 S. Luick Ave., Muncie, IN 47302. Make check payable to Candle In the Window. Registration closes Aug. 1.
For more information, contact Kathy Szinnyey via e-mail, [email protected], or call her at (502) 759-1288, or Patrick Votta, [email protected] or (718) 797-2475.
Croft Leaves NBP
National Braille Press publisher Diane Croft stepped down from her position in April, after 34 years of service to NBP and to the blindness community. Diane will be publishing under a new imprint, Interleaf Press, and is set to release her book on the collective unconscious this summer.
The blindness community has recognized Diane for her contributions to the field with numerous awards, including the 1990 Book Award from the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Uncommon Vision Award, and the Bay State Council of the Blind Outstanding Service Award. She received the Hands On! Award from NBP in 2012 for her efforts to promote braille literacy. Diane is a published author and editor of dozens of publications, including the award-winning biography of the inventor of braille, “Louis Braille: A Touch of Genius,” which has been translated into seven languages.
Rite Aid Talking Labels
Rite Aid now has talking labels in all its stores across the country. This agreement was as a result of structured negotiations between the American Council of the Blind, the California Council of the Blind, and Rite Aid.
Rite Aid has made the Talking Pill Reminder system available in its stores (the same device used by Walgreens). If the Talking Pill Reminder is not effective for customers, Rite Aid will make the ScripTalk talking labels available. Everything will be available free of charge to blind customers. Large-print prescription information is also available in the stores.
With so many stores, it is possible that there will be some implementation challenges early in the rollout. The Rite Aid general customer service number is 1-800-748-3243. Please start with the customer service line to resolve any issues. If you run into any difficulties, Rite Aid has provided ACB with a contact person for you to call. That person is Michael Mack, phone (717) 975-5878, e-mail [email protected].
Rite Aid wants to hear positive and negative feedback on the roll-out, so please use the customer service hotline to convey feedback. This agreement is another big step in ACB’s work to make sure blind people have safe and independent access to prescription information.
Accessible Prescription Press Releases Consolidated
With so many ACB advocacy victories on the accessible prescription front recently, we wanted to share a link with all of you. Lainey Feingold updated and consolidated all of the releases into one link for ease of access. You can view them at https://www.lflegal.com/2016/03/talking-label-2016Update/.
Hadley Changes Name
To better reflect the diversity of students it serves and how it has evolved over the years, The Hadley School for the Blind has changed its name to Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
In tandem with the name change, a catchy new tagline, “Educating — for life,” will be used to highlight Hadley’s mission to promote independent living through lifelong learning, as well as its dedication to educating students on life skills and helping them reach their full potential.
A more contemporary logo was also developed to illustrate how Hadley has changed, while remaining true to its roots. The graphic represents the braille letter “h,” honoring Hadley’s longstanding commitment to braille excellence. The graphic also is reminiscent of stained glass in prairie architecture.
Protecting Social Security Benefits for Borrowers
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced a new process to identify and assist federal student loan borrowers with disabilities who may be eligible for Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) loan discharge. This effort was called for by President Obama in his Student Aid Bill of Rights, which details measures to make paying for higher education an easier and fairer experience for millions of Americans. The Higher Education Act allows for loan forgiveness for borrowers who are totally and permanently disabled.
The Department of Education has been working closely with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to complete a data match to identify federal student loan borrowers who also receive disability payments and have the specific designation of “Medical Improvement Not Expected” (MINE) which, because of a change in regulations in 2013, qualifies them for loan forgiveness under the TPD discharge program. Approximately 387,000 borrowers were identified in the first set of matches. In total, they have a combined loan balance of over $7.7 billion, and roughly 179,000 are currently in default.
Borrowers who were identified in the match will receive a letter explaining that the borrower is eligible for loan forgiveness and how to receive a discharge. They will not be required to submit documentation of their eligibility. Instead, they are eligible for a streamlined process by which they simply sign and return the completed application. Initial notification letters will be sent over a 16-week period and will be followed up with a second letter that will be sent 120 days after the initial letter if a signed application is not received. Notification will also include information to ensure borrowers understand the potential tax implications for this benefit and can make an informed decision about electing a discharge. For more information, visit https://disabilitydischarge.com.
McCallum Is New Superintendent
Gov. Jay Inslee recently named Scott McCallum superintendent of the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver.
McCallum has 17 years of experience working on behalf of students in Oregon who are blind or visually impaired. He most recently served for nearly six years as the Blind and Visually Impaired Student Fund administrator for the state of Oregon and coordinated specialized educational services for students who are blind/visually impaired. McCallum also has classroom experience as an itinerant teacher and orientation and mobility specialist in Eugene.
Delaney Named Executive Director of Perkins International
Perkins School for the Blind named Michael J. Delaney as executive director of Perkins International in a move to expand its worldwide mission educating and empowering children and young adults with visual impairments.
Delaney spent 25 years with Oxfam America, known globally for combating poverty, famine and injustice. There he established the Humanitarian Division, growing it to one-third of Oxfam’s program operations and budget.
Delaney will build on Perkins International’s 30-plus years of work creating sustainable programs through local partnerships as it is poised to launch several new initiatives. These include better assessment tools to help governments evaluate special-education programs, certified teacher training courses, and a global focus on transition to adult living. The initiatives are designed to improve every aspect of the educational process for children and young adults with vision loss.
Hatfield Appointed Executive Director
Braille Institute recently announced the appointment of Jay Hatfield to the position of executive director for its San Diego regional center. Since the San Diego center opened in 1993, it has served thousands of people with vision loss living throughout San Diego County. The center is one of five southern California regional centers operated by Braille Institute.
Hatfield began his tenure at Braille Institute in 1990. Since then, he has led many teams to success through roles which include assistant director and regional director for Braille Institute Rancho Mirage as well as assistant regional director for Braille Institute San Diego. Most recently, Hatfield served as director of philanthropy for the San Diego and Rancho Mirage centers.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy recently launched TalentWorks, a free online tool that helps employers and human resources professionals ensure accessibility in their web-based job applications and other recruiting technologies for job seekers with disabilities.
Created by ODEP’s Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), TalentWorks provides general background on accessibility and e-recruiting, as well as practical tip sheets for making online job applications, digital interviews, pre-employment tests and resume upload programs accessible.
To check out TalentWorks, visit https://www.peatworks.org/digital-accessibility-toolkits/talentworks/.
EEOC Launches Online System
Have you recently filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission? If so, you can keep track of its progress using the new Online Charge Status System. The system provides up-to-date status on individual charges as well as an overview of the steps that charges follow from intake to resolution. The system also provides contact information for EEOC staff assigned to the charge.
With the new system, individuals can access information about their charge at their convenience. Companies or other entities that have charges of employment discrimination filed against them also can access the system and receive the same information on the status of the charge.
The Online Charge Status System is available for charges filed on or after Sept. 2, 2015. It is not available for charges filed prior to this date, or for charges filed with EEOC’s state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies. You may view it at www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge_status.cfm, or by selecting the “Check the Status of a Charge” button on www.eeoc.gov.
For federal sector complaints of discrimination, EEOC launched an online system called the Federal Sector EEO Portal (FedSEP) for federal agencies on Oct. 1, 2015 to upload hearing and appeals documents.
EEOC will offer assistance through its toll-free number at 1-800-669-4000 (TTY, 1-800-669-6820, or ASL video phone, 1-844-234-5122) for those who do not have Internet access or who need language assistance in one of the 150 languages for which EEOC offers translation services.
New from National Braille Press
“Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS 9: An Introduction for Blind Users” by Anna Dresner is now available in braille, BRF, Word, ePub or DAISY. The new edition of this tutorial for beginners has everything you’ll need to know to start using your iPhone and the iOS 9 operating system. It guides you through setting up your phone, loading and backing up music, contacts, etc., making calls, writing and sending text messages, using a Bluetooth keyboard and braille display, and much more. Most of the book is relevant for iPod Touch users; iPad users may find it useful, too. Get your sneak preview at www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/IPHONE-IOS9.html.
Back in stock are two best-sellers: “Stir It Up! Recipes & Techniques for Young Blind Cooks” and “Braille Spelling Dictionary, UEB Edition,” both available as large print-and-braille books.
Another new book is “Miss Moore Thought Otherwise,” by Jan Pinborough, available in contracted UEB with skip lines. This is the true story of how Miss Moore created the first children’s room at the New York Public Library — a bright, warm room filled with artwork, window seats, and most important of all, borrowing privileges to the world’s best children’s books in many different languages.
For more information, contact National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen St., Boston, MA 02115-4302; phone 1-800-548-7323; or look online at www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/index.html.
Indoor Navigation System
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences recently previewed an iPhone-based indoor navigation system for the museum’s Nature Resource Center. The system is based on the BlindSquare or BlindSquare Event App and a series of small iBeacon transponders. The system communicates through Bluetooth and requires use of an iPhone.
In the Nature Resource Center, 30 iBeacon transponders were placed in the building, each transponder covering a 20- to 50-square-foot area. As the BlindSquare app picks up a specific transponder, it generates a tone. The app then announces the location and describes the environment, based on the iPhone’s compass reading. As you enter the building, the transponder reveals that you are at the entrance. When you point your iPhone straight ahead, it tells you that you are in the main foyer and that the flooring is marble. If you point it eastward, the transponder informs you that the main stairway is to the east and that the flooring is carpeted. Point it west, and it identifies the elevators, rest rooms, Planet Café and museum store.
Learning Ally Honors Outstanding Teachers
Learning Ally honored two outstanding teachers during its Success and Achievement celebration in April.
The new Winslow Coyne Reitnouer Excellence in Teaching Awards recognize exemplary leadership and innovative efforts in classroom instruction for students who struggle to read because of learning differences and visual disabilities. More than 140 teachers across the country were nominated by an array of students, parents, and other educators. In addition to choosing the top two national awardees, Learning Ally’s award selection committee identified 42 teachers who will receive special honors recognition on the Learning Ally website and social media channels.
This year’s top awards were presented to:
- Erika Fedo, a third- and fourth-grade teacher at Village Elementary School in Montgomery Township District, N.J. Having a lifelong hearing impairment and being 90 percent deaf hasn’t deterred Erika from igniting a love of reading among her students with dyslexia and print disabilities. Her empathy, insight and mastery of assistive technology has aided her launch of a book club in which students who had previously struggled to read now read with their ears, and flock to school an hour early to discuss their favorite books.
- Cindy Kanuch, a learning/reading specialist who plays a highly influential role with students and teachers at the Calhan School in Calhan, Colo. Embracing a model of neurodiversity and celebrating the strengths of students with dyslexia and learning differences, Cindy has immersed herself in Orton-Gillingham methods of reading instruction and continually drives professional development and best practices among her fellow teachers.